Birds (Frans Zwartjes, 1968, Netherlands)

Birds is 1968 short by Frans Zwartjes. The film opens with a woman on a couch, bouncing a toy bird in her hand. Interspersed are cuts on the woman's legs. Eventually, the film begins to hover on her legs, then begins rapidly cutting in between her face and legs. This kind of rapid intercutting was also used by Zwartjes in his film A Fan, in which Zwartjes would cut between the man in drag fanning his face, and his legs. As with most Zwartjes films, eventually, the film becomes more graphic and sexually charged. Like A Fan, the film is less oriented around a start and end point and has a more musical quality to it.

In comparison with A Fan, however, Birds seems to be even more obtuse. While the suggestive floating of the toy bird against the woman must have some significance, it is not altogether apparent. Formally, this cutting back and forth in rapid succession begins to grow tiresome after the first dozen or so iterations. Eventually, Zwartjes seems to be moving further in closeup. One nice touch is the sound of birds in the background of the film, but this does not do much to enhance the overall experience. 

The bird eventually floats on the woman's face, in close-up. The close-ups grow continuously more aggressively. The woman then closes her eyes and seems to be at rest. While the innuendo in the film is worth examining, Birds is a lesser effort by Zwartjes, and - despite its short length - there are much better films in the Zwartjes canon to first experience his filmmaking. Still, it exemplifies a lot of the stylistic tendencies of his early work, and as such, it is worth watching to get the full picture of the Dutch auteur's strange and challenging ouevre. 



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